The Hundred and One Dalmatians

It is often forgotten that Dodie Smith's One hundred and one dalmatians is a festive read, with most of the events taking place between the 22nd-25th December. I've loved this book since I was a child, and have continued to enjoy it for nearly 40 years. It was the first "proper" book I ever read, that is, a book with just a few illustrations rather than a heavily illustrated childrens' book. I must have been about six when I first read it, I was totally besotted with dogs as a child (I'm still pretty potty about them now), and had dragged my mother to the cinema six or seven times to see the re-release of the Disney cartoon 101 Dalmatians.

I do enjoy the cartoon, but the book is really quite special. It's one of those wonderful novels that can be read on several different levels. So, as a child, I enjoyed the adventure story, and the talking animals. As a teenager I enjoyed the fantasy elements, and one of the all-time great villainesses in Cruella de Vil. As an adult I find it very funny - there are some great jokes, and there's a charm about it very similar to Dodie Smith's other best-selling book I Capture The Castle.

It's also astonishingly well-written. Perhaps not the best book to give as a Christmas present to a dog-phobic member of the family; but for anyone else it's well worth a read, it's a wonderful book that grows with you, and beneath the froth has a real depth to it. It's also a crackingly good adventure which both adults and children can enjoy equally. Dodie Smith owned dalmatians (they were apparently extremely badly behaved dogs!), she also clearly adored them, and the combination of the author's passion for her subject, and a great story-line shot through with humour make this a sparkling read.


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